Arise…Awake and Stop Not…

Delivering the final speech of Balvikas Alumni Meet, held last month, Sri Ramesh Srinivasan from Mumbai spoke on the theme ‘The Path Ahead…Mission 2015″ narrating how Bhagawan becomes ‘Be-All and End-All’ in a Balvikas student’s life, who strives to become a worthy instrument. Ramesh Srinivasan holds doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering from California Institute of Technology where he worked in a nobl e prize winning technology. He is an active  Balvikas alumni, active in Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, currently working as a health care consultant in a premier management consulting firm.

Aum Sri Sai Ram!

I offer my most reverential and loving pranams at the Divine Lotus Feet of our beloved Bhagawan.

Dearest Lord, Respected elders, fellow alumni of the Sri Sathya Sai Balvikas, dear brothers and sisters. Loving Sai Rams to all of you.

As I stand here today, on this holy ground in the loving presence of my sweetest Lord amidst this assembly, a million of emotions flow my mind but the most overwhelming of them is gratitude. Gratitude to Bhagawan for having brought me to His Lotus Feet in this lifetime, gratitude to my Balvikas gurus for having sowed the seed of love for God in my young heart, gratitude to my parents for having nurtured that seed of love.

Sri Sathya Sai Balvikas has provided me and to all of us – the foundation for a lifelong journey to rise in love for God and for all things Godly. Bhagawan in His infinite grace and in His infinite compassion sparks the lamp of love in each of our hearts at the young age. And even if we want to go away from Him, Bhagawan never lets go of us. Bhagawan’s omnipresence, Bhagawan’s omnipotence, Bhagawan’s love carries us across oceans and across continents.

A few years ago, when I was in the US, part of the organisation there, we were organising a Sai Spiritual Retreat and as part of that Spiritual Retreat, we had invited the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning – the so called music boys to come and offer a garland of musical songs to Bhagawan as part of that Spiritual Retreat. And I always had this yearning in my heart that I wanted to be a student of the Sathya Sai Institute. That never came to be and so I took upon myself the task of taking care of all of Swami’s students – hosting them, providing hospitality as if Bhagawan Himself had come.

The spiritual retreat went extremely well. On the very last day, the very last programme was an offering of bhajans by Swami’s students and I sat right behind Swami’s students looking at Bhagawan’s picture. Immediately a dam broke inside me and emotions started pouring out – and in my mind as tears profusely steamed down my cheeks – I prayed to Bhagawan that why did I not become Your student? Why did You not accept me as Your student? What wrong have I done either in this lifetime or past lifetimes so that I did not get that opportunity? And the more I dwelt on this, the more tears came. It was almost as if the heart was being wrung like a wet towel. And as these thoughts kept coming, I asked Bhagawan – Is it because I am a step child of yours? All of these students are Your real sons. I am Your step son which is why You have kept me away from You for so long. And at the very end I gave Bhagawan a little bit of an opportunity to make up for His lapse. So in my mind I told Bhagawan – alright probably some great sin of mine has caused me from not being Your student, can You at least not give me a hug? Is that too much to ask for?

I went home that day continuing to cry. All of the Sai elders, all of my Sai brothers were very worried and concerned. But how could I share with them the shameful secret that I was accusing the Lord of being a step-father. I went to bed crying that night, never imagined that so many tears could actually flow from human being. The next morning at about 4.00 am, I get awakened by a phone call. It was a Sai brother of mine who had called and said – Ramesh I want to tell you something. Swami came in my dream – you were also in that dream – you and I were sitting with Swami at the dinner table and Swami kept ignoring you and kept talking to me and you kept crying in the entire dream. But you know what happened then? Suddenly, Swami got up and he ran towards you and gave you a big hug. Hearing this, I broke down again – overwhelmed by the love of the Lord. Sitting in America – in my own mind praying to Bhagawan for a hug and here He is giving me a hug. It is said that Swami can listen to a foot fall of an ant, the sneeze of a butterfly, the yearning of every sincere heart. As my brothers pointed out earlier, Bhagawan’s heart melts in no time.

Balvikas not only teaches us to rise in love for God, it also teaches us to love all things Godly and that means the responsibility to practise the teachings of Bhagawan.

I recall my final year engineering programme in Mumbai and as was the fashion in those days, there was mad rush among all of the students to actually get admission into a foreign university. And so in the final examinations it turned out that many of my fellow students were not shy of borrowing from each other during examinations and so they would encourage me to participate in this activity with them. But Bhagawan has taught us through Balvikas that excellence while the goal of human life has to be balanced with values and character, and so, the scene I would describe to you – we had in the final examination three rows of benches. 59 students in the class were seated in two rows and there was one student seated on the third row all by himself. It turned out that I actually did not come first in class and so it was a great disappointment for me and I kept asking Bhagawan – you said that if you follow Truth – Truth wins. Why is this Bhagawan? Time came for admissions to the universities abroad and with Bhagawan’s grace – I was awarded admission into one of the leading universities in America. But even more importantly than that – Bhagawan gave me the opportunity to work in a laboratory that was awarded the nobel prize in Chemistry while I was a student in that laboratory.

So, indeed yes – Truth triumphs. What Bhagawan wants is certitude – certitude in character and certitude in following His teachings. But the urge and the yearning to follow God and follow all things Godly comes through us, through Bhagawan’s very special instruments and they are our Balvikas gurus.

The Sri Lalitha Sahastranama praises the Divine Mother as She Who showers causeless unconditional compassion and to me our Balvikas gurus are conduits of that ceaseless compassion for our beloved Bhagawan. In my own case, I was alone group III Balvikas student in the Samiti that I was in Mumbai and my Balvikas teacher used to live a few kilometers away – and for 3 years, brothers and sisters, my Balvikas teacher would change two buses to come and teach me – one student for 3 years.

All of us may be familiar with that story of the starfish. A beach littered with starfish, and there was a young boy who kept picking up a starfish and kept throwing it back into the ocean. Another person approached him and said – what is the use – there are thousands of starfish lying on the beach. The little boy picked up a starfish, threw it back into the ocean and said that it made a difference to that one. And yes, my Balvikas guru’s love and dedication for Bhagawan made a difference to this starfish.

The last day, for us alumni, has been a time of re-connection, re-collection, rejuvenation, but now it is time for re-dedication. The holy Bible says – To whom much is given much shall be asked of. We, as the alumni of Sri Sathya Sai Balvikas have received unceasingly from our beloved Bhagawan, unceasingly from our gurus. How do we repay a debt so great? The honest answer is that we cannot. We cannot repay this debt. But what we can do is to live up and practise the teachings that Bhagawan and His Balvikas gurus had instilled in us.

My mind goes back to 1990 April 28th, the scene is in Mumbai – Dharmakshetra. Bhagawan had visited Mumbai that year for 3 days. And it was the year when I was graduating from Balvikas – in the evening we had a programme by Sri Sathya Sai students of Mumbai and I was seated right by the stage pit. My role that evening – the opportunity was to lead all the graduating students of Balvikas in Jyoti Meditation in front of Bhagawan and then recite a prayer. So as we were seated in the pit, bhajans were going on, suddenly Bhagawan rose from His chair, walked in my direction, pointed to me and asked me to come up on stage to receive the certificates, the diplomas on behalf of all of the students of Sri Sathya Sai Balvikas Mumbai. But there is a twist to the story – because another student, another Balvikas brother was actually given that role that day to go up and receive certificates from Bhagawan. And so, me in my desire to follow my Balvikas guru’s instructions, stayed put. I did not go up to the stage. Bhagawan beckoned the second time and that point Nimish uncle sitting here, in his not so gentle manner, gave me a big elbow to my rib saying, “Go, Bhagawan is calling.” And then I ran up and received the diploma from the Divine Hands of Bhagawan and that day I became an alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai Balvikas.

A few moments later, I led all of the graduating children in Jyoti meditation and after that I recited a prayer which all the children recited after me – O’ Lord, take my love and let it flow in fullness of devotion to Thee. Oh Lord, take my hands and let them work incessantly for Thee. Oh Lord, take my soul and let it be merged in one with thee. Oh Lord, take my mind and thoughts and let them be in tune with Thee. Oh Lord, take my everything and let me be an instrument to work for Thee.

As soon as I finished this prayer, Bhagawan motioned for Aarti to start, Bhagawan rose, Aarti started and I just simply sat down where was reciting the prayer. Aarti was over, Bhagawan retired to His quarters, and as the crowd began to disperse, suddenly there was a rustle of the curtain behind the stage and lo and behold – Bhagawan re-emerges back on the stage and this time His gaze is fixed straight on me. His face is looking very stern and He walks in my direction like a laser and right from the distance He beckons to me to come up on stage and at this point fear ceases my heart because I knew that something was not right.

At that moment, I realised that in my rush to sit down as Aarti had started, I had sat down on the ladies side and so in my mind working overtime I thought – O’ my God, forgive me. I run up to the stage and knelt down at the steps of the stage and Bhagawan looks at me and says – the prayer you just said is wrong. I was stunned. I was stunned because I had learnt that prayer from a letter that Bhagawan had written to His students in Swami’s own handwriting. And Swami said, the prayer you just said is wrong. I was stunned for words.

Bhagawan then asked, do you know why the prayer is wrong? I said, no Swami. Then came the Divine revelation. Bhagawan said, in the prayer you keep saying – take, take, take. I have come to take but you must learn to give. Give…give…give… And then in His Divine compassion He gave me Padnamaskar.

This incident, brothers and sisters, have left an indelible impression on my mind. It is not that the words of the prayer were wrong. It is that the intent behind the prayer has to be one, not of passive devotion but of active surrender.

Active surrender, to give to Bhagawan all that He desires of us – to give of our mind, to give of our talents, to give of our time, to give of our energy – not for Bhagawan, but for the good of the world that He had come to bless. Service to the world – this is the way in which we can redeem or attempt to redeem our debt to Bhagawan. Service is something that we have all learnt from Bhagawan.

I remember a story – a Sai brother of mine was very close to Mother Teresa and every time she would come to Coimbatore, he would be in charge of hosting her and receiving her. So, once, when Mother Teresa landed in Coimbatore airport, she walked out of the terminal and she was carrying a small bag. Sai brother asked – Mother is there more luggage coming behind you? …and Mother said – No, this is all that I have. He asked, Mother but you are going to be here for 2 weeks, you surely have more luggage and Mother said no, I only have two saris – one that I wear and one in my bag. Sai brother asked, why Mother? She said, you know in the morning when I wake up, I do not want to be thinking about what colour of sari I would be wearing that day because those few moments are given to Jesus – and therefore, for me, every minute and every moment of my life is in service for Jesus and even that fraction of a second I do not want to loose in the service of Jesus.

Yesterday was the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and we, in our group III Balvikas, were taught of the ideals that Swami Vivekananda set for the youth of this country. And so, may I pray to Bhagawan to give us the strength to love Him with all our mind, our heart, our soul and re-dedicate ourselves to His mission. The organisation that He founded completes 50 years in 2015. It is upto us – the Sri Sathya Sai youth, Sri Sathya Sai alumni of Balvikas to carry forward Bhagawan’s mission with self-confidence, with self-sacrifice, with self-satisfaction.

May I conclude with Swami Vivekananda’s clarion call – ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.’

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II